Thursday, August 25, 2005

A Web forum for Muslim extremists is calling on its members to organize an Islamist hackers’ army to carry out Internet attacks against the U.S. government.

The site has posted tips, software and links to other resources to help would-be cyber-warriors.

The Jamestown Foundation, a District-based nonprofit with a history of extensive ties to the CIA, said that it has monitored postings on a new section of an extremist bulletin board called al-Farooq.

According to Jeffrey Poole, a researcher for the foundation, the forum “represents a how-to manual for the disruption and/or destruction of enemy electronic resources, including e-mail, Web sites and computer hardware.”

The new section was set up two weeks ago, according to a briefing written by Mr. Poole and distributed by the foundation, which added that one member of the forum has called for the creation of an Islamist organization, which he dubbed “Jaish al-Hacker al-Islami,” the Islamic Hacker’s Army.

The would-be Islamist cyber-warrior, who calls himself “Achrafe,” pointed out that organization of large numbers of attackers is a key force multiplier in some forms of Web warfare — such as denial-of- service attacks in which the target’s servers are bombarded with so many requests for information from other parts of the Internet that they effectively are shut down.

The foundation described in detail a “hacker library” maintained on the al-Farooq site, offering special software that can be used to steal passwords; tools and tips on anonymous Web surfing; and programs the site says can destroy or disable a target computer if installed on it.

Ron Gula, a former National Security Agency official who worked on computer security issues, said that many of the hacking efforts made by such groups are “amateurish” and “lost in the background noise” of other hackers and Internet criminals.

“Between 1 and 5 percent of the Internet is infected [with viruses, spyware, worms or other malicious software] at any one time,” Mr. Gula said.

So-called keystroke logs — which record every letter typed into a computer — were among the programs offered for download on al-Farooq. The software can be used to learn passwords and log-in information.

Once the program is clandestinely installed on a computer, typically via a virus or an unwitting download, the records of the key strokes are transmitted to the hacker, giving him access to password-protected computer systems.

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